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Delayed flights v. late-show passengers. Offer equal rights

 
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Devesh
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Joined: 26 May 2008
Posts: 564
Location: Bangalore, India

PostPosted: Tue Aug 07, 2012 3:00 pm    Post subject: Delayed flights v. late-show passengers. Offer equal rights Reply with quote

I penned my opinion, and feel it is a good topic to have a mature discussion on, here at AI.net. Can this work in India? If no, why not AND what changes would you propose to the 'flat tire' rule to make it suitable for Indian conditions.

http://www.bangaloreaviation.com/2012/08/converting-late-comer-passengers-in-to.html

Quote:

Delayed flights vs. late-show passengers. Giving each other equal rights with United Airlines' 'flat tire' rule.

It is a well known business fact, that satisfaction and trust are created when contracts are balanced. Yet, globally, airline ticket contracts are extremely one-sided in favour of airlines, especially when it comes to flight delays and cancellations. In India, while the aviation regulator DGCA has rules on facilities to be provided to a passenger in the event of a delay or cancellation of a flight, it also has a provision of "circumstances beyond an airline's control". With peak hour demands at major airports, outstripping runway capacity, the unfortunate reality, is, that airlines in India, do delay or cancel a reasonable number of flights. The almost universal reason given, is, "circumstances beyond our control".

Yet, if a passenger cannot reach the airport in time, due to reasons beyond their control, a traffic jam, a procession, an accident, or even a tyre puncture, they stand to lose the entire ticket cost, due to being a "no-show". The fear of this loss results in late passengers risking their life and limb, along with those of fellow road users, in a crazed rush to the airport, or even the few ultra-stupid ones who decide to call in a bomb-threat.

Why this double standard? If an airline can have its flight delayed by "ATC delays" (read air or airport traffic jam), then why cannot a passenger be held up by road traffic jam? Both situations are unintentional, caused by "circumstances beyond control". In the world's largest democracy, what is stopping us from practicing this fundamental tenet of equality? This thought has been vexing me for many years.

I am not advocating a blanket refund policy for "no-shows". Such a policy would be instantly abused into oblivion, and will be unfair to airlines. However, there surely must be some middle ground?

The solution comes from United Airlines via consumer right activist Christopher Elliot's article. It is called the 'flat tire' (tyre puncture) rule.
http://www.elliott.org/blog/5-fascinating-facts-about-the-new-united-airlines/

In essence the rule says, if you have a flat tire on your way to the airport, or are otherwise delayed because of circumstances beyond your control, United will put you on the wait-list for the NEXT flight to your destination at no extra charge. Yes, no extra charges!! No change fee, no fare differential, no "no-show" fee, nothing. If there is a spare seat of the next flight, after clearing that flight's confirmed and previously wait-listed passengers, United will put you on that flight.

To qualify for the 'flat tire' rule, the passenger must arrive at the airport within two hours of the original scheduled departure.

It is an ethical policy that treats the customer with fairness and a modicum of humanity. Will such a policy be beneficial for the aviation industry in India? Yes. Is it required? Again Yes.

When faced with doubts and questions, Rotarians apply the "Four-Way Test" asking these questions :
Is it the TRUTH?
Is it FAIR to all concerned?
Will it build GOODWILL and BETTER FRIENDSHIPS?
Will it be BENEFICIAL to all concerned?

United's 'flat tire' rule meets the test in all ways.
The rule is based on trust and truthfulness between the passenger and airline.
It creates a level of equality in the contract, which makes it fair to both, the passenger and the airline.
By putting the passenger on a wait-list for the next flight, the airline is not losing any money, while by accepting the customer on his/her word it builds goodwill for the airline and improves customer loyalty (friendship).
This creates a beneficial win-win-win situation for the passenger, the airline, and those on the road, who lives are not risked in the mad dash to the airport.
Is there a potential for abuse if such a rule is offered in India? Sure there is. Any privilege can be abused, and not just in India.

One must ask these questions though. In today's hectic schedule driven world, would a passenger knowingly disrupt their schedule? It is important to note, the rule can call for the airline to put the passenger on the wait-list for the next flight, not some flight in the future, and it does not guarantee a seat on the next flight. If the next flight is full or the passenger cannot be accommodated, then he/she gets wait-listed on the next flight after that. The passenger has to be present at the counter when the waiting-list of each flight is cleared. Will a passenger knowingly be late and want to endure such uncertainty? I doubt it.

What are your thoughts? Share them via a comment.

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Devesh
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shivendrashukla
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Joined: 21 Dec 2006
Posts: 1354
Location: Mumbai, India

PostPosted: Tue Aug 07, 2012 3:14 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

A good and refreshing concept. But I am skeptical in its implementation in India, where airlines charge 50rs for a ticket printout at the counter. The airlines have to change their mentality towards passengers for this to be a success.
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Nimish
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Joined: 16 Dec 2006
Posts: 9757
Location: Bangalore, India

PostPosted: Tue Aug 07, 2012 3:39 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Can it work -yes (except for last flights and so on).

Will airlines take this plunge - no, don't think so - because they benefit from all the change fees and so on. The don't care that much about the passenger because they're still in the red (at least most airlines are), and have years of accumulated losses. Change fees/ fare difference at the airport is a source of a good amount of revenue for airlines, why would they let it go?

Besides, for the airline, they are not going to fill that seat that went empty (on the missed plane), and it's a lost opportunity for them.

Mid-way compromise - perhaps offer this as a a benefit to FFP loyalists - top tier get this benefit at no charge, and lower tiers waived part of the fees. That would be more of a win-win on both sides. But for non-FFP airlines like 6E/ SG etc., I don't see them benefiting from this move.
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